Teamwork : Cost-Effective Team Building Exercises

Jim Jenkins, President of Creative Visions Consulting, has over twenty years experience cultivating high performing teams with companies including  AT&T, Nortel, Long Fence, Datatrac Information Systems, MedImmune Inc., and Booz Allen Hamilton.

Shunning gimmicks like games and obstacles courses, Jenkins fosters team building by breaking down communications barriers, achieving shared goals and fostering an adult working environment. Get his free report “5 Low-Cost/High-Impact Team Building Exercises: A Managers Guide to Building High Performing Teams” at, or call 866-322-8263 to schedule a free consultation.

Instead of trying to design a team building exercise where people play games or climb rocks to develop team spirit, explore fun, cost-effective ways to engage your team. Below are three proven team building strategies that embrace community, meaningful dialogue and learning.

Team Building Through Volunteerism

Studies show that companies that encourage and support their staff to get involved in the community is a great way to motivate employees and increase team spirit.

But instead of sending folks out on their own to volunteer, take your team out for a day to support a local group. This builds collaboration and a sense of respect and accomplishment.

Taking your team out to volunteer has a direct impact on retention and morale. According to Council on Foundations, employees who participate in community-based efforts through work are more likely to:

  • Stay with a company for at least two more years
  • Recommend their organization as a good place to work
  • Deliver better deliver better customer service

Volunteering as a team also solidifies your reputation as an employer of choice and positions you as a strategic business partner with a sense of good will within your community. This equates to increased profits as many of today's customers prefer to do businesses who give back to their communities. 

For example, Booz Allen Hamilton’s San Antonio office developed much goodwill for their firm when they supported the local Red Cross by providing the equipment and staff for a local call center to help displaced people leave messages for their loved ones after Hurricane Katrina.  

Consider spending a day at a local school where the classrooms need painting, delivering meals to terminally ill people, reading to children who have no parents, or cleaning a park that lacks funding for proper maintenance.

You'll find that in this process that not only will you have a higher performing team, but also a newfound respect for generating profits with principles!

Team Building By the Book

Book clubs are nothing new, but thanks to Oprah and the Today Show, more and more folks are reading again for personal pleasure. So why not take advantage of this opportunity at work as well?

One of the most effective ways to improve your team dynamics is to dialogue as often as possible. Using books, DVDs and even magazine articles are a great way to get your teams talking. And you must might learn a thing or two about yourself in the process!

Once a month, pick a relevant business book and purchase them for your team.  Give them a deadline to read the book and then plan a team meeting where all you do is discuss the book. You could create a set of questions about your company for the team to reflect on while reading the book to make it more meaningful to your business needs.

Here are more tips for starting an office book club:

  • Pick books that expand people's views of the workplace. I know one company who sponsors a diversity book club where they look at various aspects of diversity each month.
  • Have employees suggest books to read and encourage one person to act as a facilitator during your book club meeting.
  • Require that people spend time at work to actually read the book.
  • When possible, invite the book's author to your site or appear via conference call to discuss his or her work.

You can even go beyond having a book club and also have a DVD club where you watch a movie that can reframe a current business problem. Films like In Good Company, Gung Ho, Chariots of Fire, Norma Rae, and To Kill a Mockingbird are among the many films I've shared with my teams to encourage discussions on how to improve the workplace; try them with yours as well!

The Diversity Desk Game

If your office environment is stagnant and unappealing, it could mean that your employees are also suffering from a lack of creative thought when it comes to thinking up new products and services or new ways to address business problems.

Studies show that an appealing and highly diverse work environment lead to increased creativity and productivity. Wall art, toys, lighting, and even music facilitates a more dynamic and positively charged work space. Even by placing your office furniture on a diagonal and provide a new perspective at work.

To help you bring out the best in your employees, sponsor a Diversity Desk Game where you charge your team with building the most unique and diverse office environment possible. You can make this even more fun by having teams compete for creating the most fun and productive work space.

The goal is to create an environment where people are free to be themselves while learning a valuable lesson that there are different ways to look at situations.

Sponsoring an office environment change opens your employees up to new perspectives. The good news is that this team building exercise can be done with a small budget or even none at all--and it still works!

Ó Copyright Jim Jenkins, 2005

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